How being a MK has messed with my mind!

One of the great things about getting older is that I feel a lot more settled with my life story.  I don't feel so reticent to share it with others.  In fact, as I've got older I'm valuing more and more my childhood rather than desperately wishing I'd had a 'normal' childhood in Australia.

I lived in India between the ages of 5 and 14.  My parents were missionaries and we lived in a Bible college in a little Indian town in the middle of India.  Between 9 and 14 I went to a British boarding school for missionary kids which was a two day train trip away from home.

When I was almost 15 I started attending school in Australia.  I had a posh accent and soooo desperately wanted to assimilate - quickly.  I lost that accent fast and started to try and learn about life in Australia.  What it meant to be Australian.  A real Australian.  Not just one that celebrated Australia Day and ate Vegemite.  It wasn't easy. I found the later years of high school a long journey of regaining confidence in myself and my place in the world.

By the time I got to university, I thought that I had cracked it.  I knew what it meant to be Australian and so I moved forward.  I really didn't want to talk about India.  I wanted to just be Jenny - the normal Australian girl.

And in my 30's I've been bringing up these great Australian kids - with a childhood so different to my own that I've had to regularly check with my husband 'Is this normal?  Is this what we do in Australia?'.

But I can't get away from my childhood.  It has impacted how I think about my life and my parenting (even though Rowan does keep saying that I can't blame everything on my childhood!)

Here are some examples:

  • It's fine for my kids to share bedrooms.  Most families in the world sleep in one room or in one bed.  Complaining about a three bedroom house seems a bit much to me.
  • You don't need a lot of 'stuff' to have children.  I've been told so many times that I was lucky to have children young but 'we haven't been able to do that because we just don't have the money'.  We've never had any money.  Kids don't need a lot of stuff to be happy.  They need you.
  • I could have been born into a very poor family in India.  Instead I'm a white, middle-class Australian.  There is nothing I personally did to make that happen - I didn't earn my place as an Australian.  But I do have a responsibility to think hard about what I do with the wealth and privilege that comes from being born into a first world country.
  • It doesn't matter to me if a friendship I form is going to be short-term.   The length of a friendship is not how I measure the value of a friendship.  I lived a life when friends came and went very quickly.  We didn't have a lot of stability.  But it meant we formed friendships fast.   
  • My kids are very rich, even though we maybe don't have a lot of money when compared to others in Australia.  Our family is rich in a monetary sense but we are also rich because we have high levels of education.  We have much to give our kids from our own educations.  I never want them to believe that we are poor.  We just aren't.
  • It has made me think about the schools I send my kids to.  As we think about high school for next year I find it hard to justify spending money on private education when the government provides it for free.  So many children around the world don't even get past a primary school education, let alone having compulsory, secondary education provided by the government.  With university educated teachers.  With computers and electricity and libraries full of books.  
What's ironic in sharing all this is that I know that some of this might make me seem a bit different.  What I've spent so long trying to get away from!  And I don't care so much anymore. I'm just getting old!


Nicole said…
Sounds like being a MK gave you a lot of wisdom rather than messing with your mind! I love the photo BTW...
Beck said…
Hey Jen, so I can't be the voyeur anymore. Love it. Ageing can be great for us angsty types.
I remember that girl... and the uni student.. and now the 2010 version. They've all put a smile on my face and challenged me to think beyond the accepted wisdoms. Keep it up! And yes.. do you still have the outfits?
Katherine said…
Interestingly despite coming to Oz relatively young (when I was 6) I still identified with some of your feelings there - and I think being a parent does make you think a lot about your childhood and some of the things that were hard. I was determined to give my children a solid, secure place to live (no moving every few years and making new friends) and now I wonder if that is because of my needs rather than theirs.

I also find it interesting because so much of what you hear about MKs is the great stuff - multiculturalism, travelling the world, experiences, languages, good schooling etc... but there is another side to it all.
Meredith said…
Hi Jenny,

I loved reading this post. I feel very strongly about the fact that even though our family, like yours, doesn't have a lot money in western terms, in world terms yes, we are rich. I can take this on for myself but I always stumble when I make plans for my children. Oh, I can walk away from expensive clothes for them and large amounts of toys. We have great fun, inexpensive holidays. And I am a champion for government education generally speaking. But when I think about secondary education for our boys specifically I always trip up. So this has been a really helpful reminder again. When you read on my blog in a few years time that we are making decisions about secondary education, can you link me back to this post?

Proverbs 30:7-9

Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die;
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty or riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise I may have too much and disown you
And say, "Who is the LORD?"
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonour the name of my God.

Jenny said…
Sorry girls - the outfits are long gone but this was definitely a photo for the grandparents!
What you say is interesting Katherine - I too cherish stability for my family. What I realise now is that my family gave me stability when my surroundings didn't. When I say that being a 'MK has messed with my mind' I'm actually saying what I've often felt others have thought of me (rightly or wrongly). That if I occasionally have a mildly 'out there' idea, they have been quietly dismissed because of the MK label. But I'm going to embrace it and run with it. It's just who I am and I can't be something that I'm not.
And all the best with that high school decision Meredith - it's a challenging time!
Pip said…
I think down similar lines for most (but not all!!!) of your points, and I credit it to growing up in a frugal family in the 'not so nice' part of Sydney...I think the things you say need to be is always helpful but not always comfortable to hear people challenge what is accepted as 'normal' culture.
Jenny said…
'But not all of your points' - wise move to distance yourself Pip!! I'm sure your background and experiences explain why Rowan and I have found ourselves thinking similarly on lots of these issues even though he grew up in Sydney.
Fi Smartt said…
I love this post Jenny.
I came back from overseas at the start of high school and am only now starting to realise how much being a MK shapes opinions I have now.
Great photo as well!
Pip said…
It is in the nature of friendships that I have thought differently - and have been challenged now to rethink my ideas about this...I like your view : )
Erin said…
Yes! I can so relate! I was a MK for most of my childhood, coming back to Australia for highschool. I just couldn't seem to fit in which made high school (and most of uni) dreadful.

I feel that I've only just started to relax into being who I am, and I think finally embracing my childhood is a big part of that. But I also have to be careful not to blame everything on my upbringing.

I think differently about lots of things than most people around me. If I have kids I know I'll parent differently, but I think I'm cool with that :).
Fiona McLean said…
Hi Jenny, I'm an MK too (I grew up in Tanzania) and what you wrote really resonated with me. I still find it a buzz to "meet" another MK - but encouraging too that Australian born-and-bred Christians (like my husband) can think similarly about these issues too.

Fiona McLean
Sarah said…
It sounds like your childhood was a blessing in the sense that you can see our country through different eyes concerning the excessive waste that living in middle class Australia often brings.

My husband and I have a friend who was an MK and has recently returned from two years in Africa. She has struggled a bit to readapt to Aussie life and sees things through a different lens which is a good thing.
Rachael said…
Hi Jenny, this was a helpful post for me to read and think about. We are in the process of thinking through whether to stay in Vanuatu... how the children cope readjusting to Australia, and when, is big in my mind! Not to mention I how might cope!
Jenny said…
Rachael - I wouldn't swap my childhood for anything - I feel privileged to have seen the wider world out there. God sustained me through some tough times in readjusting but I'm glad for all I've learnt along the way. I'm sure many other MKs will agree!
Gina said…
I'm behind on reading your posts and you've chucked in some doozies lately! I enjoyed this post. I'm far from being an MK and yet in the last half a decade have found myself being challenged as a Christian about the points you mention here, particularly challenging the sense of entitlement that we Aussies feel about homes, space, material goods etc. And so I'm trying to live with the global perspective, not just my immediate neighbours, in mind. Most of my close friends are minister's wives and so there is some financial restriction imposed - for my husband and I as 'lay people' we almost have to more consciously choose a sacrificial approach (or in our culture, sacrificial, we really are so so rich!).

I'd never really thought about the friendship thing - but I found your comment quite liberating. I'm good at being a solid friend to those around me, but sometimes I struggle with friendships which have kind of moved on to new phases, and how I should or shouldn't try to maintain them...

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